Lucille Ball has provided countless hours of entertainment to audiences of all ages. Staying home sick from school was a routine that included naps on the couch, saltine crackers and ginger ale, and reruns of I Love Lucy. Jerk of All trades recently visited the Lucy-Desi Museum in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown, New York and relived a few of those fond memories.
The extensive exhibit space is divided into two distinct sections and is best navigated in chronological order. Lucy’s family’s history in rural New York State and her journey to show business is the rocky beginning. Her childhood was far from glamorous – marred with tragedy, disease, and death. Lucy was left the drive to laugh or break down crying. The second segment of the museum begins with the establishment of DesiLu Studios and provides more of the history and artifacts recognizable from television.
Carefully curated effects range from personal possessions to costume pieces and television props to pioneering technical equipment. On proud display is the innovative editing machine affectionately referred to as the “three-headed monster.” This early piece of film equipment made possible the editing together of three different camera angles from the I Love Lucy set, a costly technique which was pioneered by the show and is now commonplace in the industry. Also on display is Lucy’s personal 1972 Mercedes Benz 280 SE which is continually and artfully maintained by local detailing experts, Ziebart. Although she had a driver and never personally drove the shining wagon, it is definitely a sight to behold.
Multimedia experiences include a looped film about Lucy’s journey to her first job in show business and audio clips from Lucy and Desi’s wildly popular CBS radio program, My Favorite Husband. Portable audio tour devices are available for an additional fee.
The transition between the two sections of the museum does require a trip outdoors which can be difficult in inclement weather but beyond that, the physical accessibility of the buildings is wheelchair and scooter friendly. The museum does not have a dedicated parking lot but structures and meters nearby are free of charge on weekends and after 5 pm. The dual gift shops have something for everyone on your souvenir list. Not part of the general public’s tour is the dining club which is designed to replicate Desi’s Tropicana Room. This private event space is available to rent and can host 90 dining guests or 160 guests seated theater-style.
Open 7 days a week, the museum has partnered with the newly opened National Comedy Center in offering combo ticket packages. If you intend to visit both museums in one day it is best to start early as the average visit to the National Comedy Center, one of Time Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places for 2019, lasts three hours and is replete with multimedia interactive experiences. Admission will also get you a map to other local sites of interest including the farmhouse Lucy was raised in, statues of her in local parks, and her final resting place in Lake View Cemetery where her remains were transplanted from Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 1989 upon a request from her children. It’s a trip back in time and a nice way to spend a day in Western New York.
LUCILLE BALL DESI ARNAZ MUSEUM. The legacy of Lucille Ball has been proudly honored in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown by the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum since 1996.For decades, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz played a vital role in television and on the big screen.
Article by Sara Culver Provencio/ Photos by Maggie St.Thomas